Chapter 12

Green’s Functions
12.1 One-dimensional Helmholtz Equation
Suppose we have a string driven by an external force, periodic with frequency
ω. The differential equation (here f is some prescribed function)
_

2
∂x
2

1
c
2

2
∂t
2
_
U(x, t) = f(x) cos ωt (12.1)
represents the oscillatory motion of the string, with amplitude U, which is tied
down at both ends (here l is the length of the string):
U(0, t) = U(l, t) = 0. (12.2)
We seek a solution of the form (thus we are ignoring transients)
U(x, t) = u(x) cos ωt, (12.3)
so u(x) satisfies
_
d
2
dx
2
+k
2
_
u(x) = f(x), k = ω/c. (12.4)
The solution to this inhomogeneous Helmholtz equation is expressed in terms of
the Green’s function G
k
(x, x

) as
u(x) =
_
l
0
dx

G
k
(x, x

)f(x

), (12.5)
where the Green’s function satisfies the differential equation
_
d
2
dx
2
+k
2
_
G
k
(x, x

) = δ(x −x

). (12.6)
125 Version of November 23, 2010
126 Version of November 23, 2010 CHAPTER 12. GREEN’S FUNCTIONS
As we saw in the previous chapter, the Green’s function can be written down
in terms of the eigenfunctions of d
2
/dx
2
, with the specified boundary conditions,
_
d
2
dx
2
−λ
n
_
u
n
(x) = 0, (12.7a)
u
n
(0) = u
n
(l) = 0. (12.7b)
The normalized solutions to these equations are
u
n
(x) =
_
2
l
sin
nπx
l
, λ
n
= −
_

l
_
2
, n = 1, 2, . . . . (12.8)
The factor
_
2/l is a normalization factor. From the general theorem about
eigenfunctions of a Hermitian operator given in Sec. 11.5, we have
2
l
_
l
0
dxsin
nπx
l
sin
mπx
l
= δ
nm
. (12.9)
Thus the Green’s function for this problem is given by the eigenfunction expan-
sion
G
k
(x, x

) =

n=1
2
l
sin
nπx
l
sin
nπx

l
k
2

_

l
_
2
. (12.10)
But this form is not usually very convenient for calculation.
Therefore we solve the differential equation (12.6) directly. When x = x

the
inhomogeneous term is zero. Since
G
k
(0, x

) = G
k
(l, x

) = 0, (12.11)
we must have
x < x

: G
k
(x, x

) = a(x

) sin kx, (12.12a)
x > x

: G
k
(x, x

) = b(x

) sin k(x −l). (12.12b)
We determine the unknown functions a and b by noting that the derivative of G
must have a discontinuity at x = x

, which follows from the differential equation
(12.6). Integrating that equation just over that discontinuity we find
_
x


x

−ǫ
dx
_
d
2
dx
2
+k
2
_
G
k
(x, x

) = 1, (12.13)
or
d
dx
G
k
(x, x

)
¸
¸
¸
¸
x=x


x=x

−ǫ
= 1, (12.14)
because 2ǫG
k
(x

, x

) → 0 as ǫ → 0. Although
d
dx
G
k
(x, x

) is discontinuous at
x = x

, G(x, x

) is continuous there:
G(x

+ǫ, x

) −G(x

−ǫ, x

) =
_
x


x

−ǫ
dx
d
dx
G(x, x

)
12.1. ONE-DIMENSIONAL HELMHOLTZ EQUATION127 Version of November 23, 2010
=
_
x

x

−ǫ
dx
d
dx
G(x, x

) +
_
x


x

dx
d
dx
G(x, x

)
= ǫ
_
d
dx
G(x, x

)
¸
¸
¸
¸
x=x

−ξ
+
d
dx
G(x, x

)
¸
¸
¸
¸
x=x

+
¯
ξ
_
, (12.15)
where by the mean value theorem, 0 < ξ ≤ ǫ, 0 <
¯
ξ ≤ ǫ. Therefore
G(x, x

)
¸
¸
¸
¸
x=x


x=x

−ǫ
= O(ǫ) →0 as ǫ →0. (12.16)
Now using the continuity of G and the discontinuity of G

, we find two
equations for the coefficient functions a and b:
a(x

) sinkx

= b(x

) sin k(x

−l), (12.17a)
a(x

)k cos kx

+ 1 = b(x

)k cos k(x

−l). (12.17b)
It is easy to solve for a and b. The determinant of the coefficient matrix is
D =
¸
¸
¸
¸
sinkx

−sink(x

−l)
k cos kx

−k cos k(x

−l)
¸
¸
¸
¸
= −k sin kl, (12.18)
independent of x

. Then the solutions are
a(x

) =
1
D
¸
¸
¸
¸
0 −sink(x

−l)
−1 −k cos k(x

−l)
¸
¸
¸
¸
=
sin k(x

−l)
k sin kl
, (12.19a)
b(x

) =
1
D
¸
¸
¸
¸
sinkx

0
k cos kx

−1
¸
¸
¸
¸
=
sin kx

k sin kl
. (12.19b)
Thus we find a closed form for the Green’s function in the two regions:
x < x

: G
k
(x, x

) =
sin k(x

−l) sinkx
k sinkl
, (12.20a)
x > x

: G
k
(x, x

) =
sin kx

sin k(x −l)
k sinkl
, (12.20b)
or compactly,
G
k
(x, x

) =
1
k sin kl
sin kx
<
sin k(x
>
−l), (12.21)
where we have introduced the notation
x
<
is the lesser of x, x

,
x
>
is the greater of x, x

. (12.22)
Note that G
k
(x, x

) = G
k
(x

, x) as is demanded on general grounds, as a conse-
quence of the reciprocity relation (11.110).
Let us analyze the analytic structure of G
k
(x, x

) as a function of k. We see
that simple poles occur where
kl = nπ, n = ±1, ±2, . . . . (12.23)
128 Version of November 23, 2010 CHAPTER 12. GREEN’S FUNCTIONS
There is no pole at k = 0. For k near nπ/l, we have
sin kl = sin nπ + (kl −nπ) cos nπ +. . . = (kl −nπ)(−1)
n
. (12.24)
If we simply sum over all the poles of G
k
, we obtain
G
k
(x, x

) =

n=−∞
n=0
(−1)
n
sin
nπx<
l
sin

l
(x
>
−l)

l
(kl −nπ)
=

n=−∞
n=0
sin
nπx
l
sin
nπx

l

_
k −

l
_
=

n=1
sin
nπx
l
sin
nπx

l
1

_
1
k −

l

1
k +

l
_
=

n=1
2
l
sin
nπx
l
sin
nπx

l
1
k
2

_

l
_
2
. (12.25)
This is in fact equal to G
k
, as seen in the eigenfunction expansion (12.10),
because the difference is an entire function vanishing at infinity, which must be
zero by Liouville’s theorem, see Sec. 6.5.
12.2 Types of Boundary Conditions
Three types of second-order, homogeneous differential equations are commonly
encountered in physics (the dimensionality of space is not important):
Hyperbolic:
_

2

1
c
2

2
∂t
2
_
u(r, t) = 0, (12.26a)
Elliptic:
_

2
+k
2
_
u(r) = 0, (12.26b)
Parabolic:
_

2

1
κ

∂t
_
T(r, t) = 0. (12.26c)
The first of these equations is the wave equation, the second is the Helmholtz
equation, which includes Laplace’s equation as a special case (k = 0), and the
third is the diffusion equation. The types of boundary conditions, specified
on which kind of boundaries, necessary to uniquely specify a solution to these
equations are given in Table 12.1. Here by Cauchy boundary conditions we
means that both the function u and its normal derivative ∂u/∂n is specified on
the boundary. Here
∂u
∂n
= ˆ n · ∇u, (12.27)
where ˆ n is a(n outwardly directed) normal vector to the surface. As we have
seen previously, Dirichlet boundary conditions refer to specifying the function
u on the surface, Neumann boundary conditions refer to specifying the nor-
mal derivative ∂u/∂n on the surface, and mixed boundary conditions refer to
12.3. EXPRESSIONOF FIELDINTERMS OF GREEN’S FUNCTION129 Version of November 23, 2010
Type of Equation Type of Boundary Condition Type of Boundary
Hyperbolic Cauchy Open
Elliptic Dirichlet, Neumann, or mixed Closed
Parabolic Dirichlet, Neumann, or mixed Open
Table 12.1: Boundary conditions required for the three types of second-order
differential equations. The boundary conditions referred to in the first and third
cases are actually initial conditions.
specifying a linear combination, αu + β∂u/∂n, on the surface. If the specified
boundary values are zero, we say that the boundary conditions are homogeneous;
otherwise, they are inhomogeneous.
Example.
To determine the vibrations of a string, described by
_

2
∂x
2

1
c
2

2
∂t
2
_
u = 0, (12.28)
we must specify
u(x, 0),
∂u
∂t
(x, 0) (12.29)
at some initial time (t = 0). The line t = 0 is an open surface in the (ct, x)
plane.
12.3 Expression of Field in Terms of Green’s
Function
Typically, one determines the eigenfunctions of a differential operator subject
to homogeneous boundary conditions. That means that the Green’s functions
obey the same conditions. See Sec. 11.8. But suppose we seek a solution of
(L −λ)ψ = S (12.30)
subject to inhomogeneous boundary conditions. It cannot then be true that
ψ(r) =
_
V
(dr

) G(r, r

)S(r

). (12.31)
To see how to deal with this situation, let us consider the example of the
three-dimensional Helmholtz equation,
(∇
2
+k
2
)ψ(r) = S(r). (12.32)
130 Version of November 23, 2010 CHAPTER 12. GREEN’S FUNCTIONS
We seek the solution ψ(r) subject to arbitrary inhomogeneous Dirichlet, Neu-
mann, or mixed boundary conditions on a surface Σ enclosing the volume V of
interest. The Green’s function G for this problem satisfies
(∇
2
+k
2
)G(r, r

) = δ(r −r

), (12.33)
subject to homogeneous boundary conditions of the same type as ψ satisfies.
Now multiply Eq. (12.32) by G, Eq. (12.33) by ψ, subtract, and integrate over
the appropriate variables:
_
V
(dr

)
_
G(r, r

)(∇
′2
+k
2
)ψ(r

) −ψ(r

)(∇
′2
+k
2
)G(r, r

)
¸
=
_
V
(dr

) [G(r, r

)S(r

) −ψ(r

)δ(r −r

)] . (12.34)
Here we have interchanged r and r

in Eqs. (12.32) and (12.33), and have used
the reciprocity relation,
G(r, r

) = G(r

, r). (12.35)
(We have assumed that the eigenfunctions and hence the Green’s function are
real.) Now we use Green’s theorem to establish

_
Σ
dσ ·
_
G(r, r

)∇

ψ(r

) −ψ(r

)∇

G(r, r

)
¸
+
_
V
(dr

) G(r, r

)S(r

) =
_
ψ(r), r ∈ V,
0, r ∈ V,
(12.36)
where in the surface integral dσ is the outwardly directed surface element, and
r

lies on the surface Σ. This generalizes the simple relation given in Eq. (12.31).
How do we use this result? We always suppose G satisfies homogeneous
boundary conditions on Σ. If ψ satisfies the same conditions, then for r ∈ V
Eq. (12.31) holds. But suppose ψ satisfies inhomogeneous Dirichlet boundary
conditions on Σ,
ψ(r

)
¸
¸
r

∈Σ
= ψ
0
(r

), (12.37)
a specified function on the surface. Then we impose homogeneous Dirichlet
conditions on G,
G(r, r

)
¸
¸
r

∈Σ
= 0. (12.38)
Then the first surface term in Eq. (12.36) is zero, but the second contributes.
For example if S(r) = 0 inside V , we have for r ∈ V
ψ(r) =
_
Σ
dσ · [∇

G(r, r

)]ψ
0
(r

), (12.39)
which express ψ in terms of its boundary values.
If ψ satisfies inhomogeneous Neumann conditions on Σ,
∂ψ
∂n

(r

)
¸
¸
¸
¸
r

∈Σ
= N(r

), (12.40)
12.4. HELMHOLTZ EQUATIONINSIDE A SPHERE131 Version of November 23, 2010
a specified function, then we use the Green’s function which respects homoge-
neous Neumann conditions,

∂n

G(r, r

)
¸
¸
¸
¸
r

∈Σ
= 0, (12.41)
so again if S = 0 inside V , we have within V
ψ(r) = −
_
Σ
dσ G(r, r

)N(r

). (12.42)
Finally, if ψ satisfies inhomogeneous mixed boundary conditions,
_

∂n

ψ(r

) +α(r

)ψ(r

)
_ ¸
¸
¸
¸
r

∈Σ
= F(r

), (12.43)
then when G satisfies homogeneous boundary conditions of the same type
_

∂n

+α(r

)
_
G(r, r

)
¸
¸
¸
¸
r

∈Σ
= 0, (12.44)
we have for r ∈ V
ψ(r) =
_
V
(dr

) G(r, r

)S(r

) −
_
σ
dσ G(r, r

)F(r

). (12.45)
12.4 Helmholtz Equation Inside a Sphere
Here we wish to find the Green’s function for Helmholtz’s equation, which sat-
isfies
(∇
2
+k
2
)G
k
(r, r

) = δ(r −r

), (12.46)
in the interior of a spherical region of radius a, with homogeneous Dirichlet
boundary conditions on the surface,
G
k
(r, r

)
¸
¸
¸
¸
|r|=a
= 0. (12.47)
We will use two methods.
12.4.1 Eigenfunction Method
We know that the eigenfunctions of the Laplacian are
j
l
(kr)Y
m
l
(θ, φ), (12.48)
in spherical polar coordinates, r, θ, φ; that is,
(∇
2
+k
2
)j
l
(kr)Y
m
l
(θ, φ) = 0. (12.49)
132 Version of November 23, 2010 CHAPTER 12. GREEN’S FUNCTIONS
Here j
l
is the spherical Bessel function,
j
l
(x) =
_
π
2x
J
l+1/2
(x), (12.50)
and the Y
m
l
are the spherical harmonics,
Y
m
l
(θ, φ) =
_
2l + 1

(l −m)!
(l +m)!
_
1/2
P
m
l
(cos θ)e
imφ
, (12.51)
where P
m
l
is the associated Legrendre function. Here l is a nonnegative integer,
and m is an integer in the range −l ≤ m ≤ l. For example, the first few
spherical Bessel functions (which are simpler than the cylinder functions, the
Bessel functions of integer order) are
j
0
(x) =
sin x
x
, (12.52a)
j
1
(x) =
sin x
x
2

cos x
x
, (12.52b)
j
2
(x) =
_
3
x
3

1
x
_
sinx −
3
x
2
cos x, (12.52c)
and in general
j
l
(x) = x
l
_

1
x
d
dx
_
l
sinx
x
. (12.53)
The associated Legrendre function is given by
P
m
l
(cos θ) = (−1)
m
sin
m
θ
_
d
d cos θ
_
l+m
(cos
2
θ −1)
l
2
l
l!
. (12.54)
For example, the first few spherical harmonics are
Y
0
0
=
1


, (12.55a)
Y
1
1
= −
_
3

sin θ e

, (12.55b)
Y
0
1
=
_
3

cos θ, (12.55c)
Y
1
1
=
_
3

sin θ e
−iφ
, (12.55d)
Y
2
2
=
_
15
32π
sin
2
θ e
2iφ
, (12.55e)
Y
1
2
= −
_
15

cos θ sin θ e

, (12.55f)
Y
0
2
=
_
5
16π
(3 cos
2
θ −1), (12.55g)
12.4. HELMHOLTZ EQUATIONINSIDE A SPHERE133 Version of November 23, 2010
Y
−1
2
=
_
15

cos θ sin θ e
−iφ
, (12.55h)
Y
−2
2
=
_
15
32π
sin
2
θ e
−2iφ
. (12.55i)
The eigenfunctions must vanish ar r = a, so if β
ln
is the nth zero of j
l
,
j
l

ln
) = 0, n = 1, 2, 3, . . . , (12.56)
the desired eigenfunctions are
ψ
nlm
(r, θ, φ) = A
nl
j
l
_
β
ln
r
a
_
Y
m
l
(θ, φ), (12.57)
and the eigenvalues are
λ
ln
= −k
2
ln
= −
_
β
ln
a
_
2
. (12.58)
The normalization constant A
nl
is determined by the requirement that
_
r
2
dr dΩ|ψ
nlm
(r, θ, φ)|
2
= 1, (12.59)
where dΩ = sin θ dθ dφ is the element of solid angle. Since the spherical har-
monics are normalized so that [Ω = (θ, φ) represents a point on the unit sphere]
_
dΩY
m


l
′ (Ω)Y
m
l
(Ω) = δ
ll
′ δ
mm
′ , (12.60)
the normalization constant is determined by the requirement
|A
nl
|
2
_
a
0
r
2
dr
_
j
l
_
β
ln
r
a
__
2
= 1. (12.61)
Now
_
a
0
r
2
dr j
l

ln
r/a)j
l

lm
r/a) = δ
nm
1
2
a
3
j
2
l+1

ln
), (12.62)
which for n = m follows from the orthogonality property (11.68). So
|A
nl
| =
_
2
a
3
1
j
l+1

ln
)
, (12.63)
and the Green’s function has the eigenfunction expansion
G
k
(r, r

) =

nlm
2
a
3
1
j
2
l+1

ln
)
Y
m
l
(Ω)Y
m∗
l
(Ω

)j
l

ln
r/a)j
l

ln
r

/a)
k
2
−(β
ln
/a)
2
, (12.64)
where Ω = (θ, φ), Ω

= (θ

, φ

).
134 Version of November 23, 2010 CHAPTER 12. GREEN’S FUNCTIONS
This result can be simplified by carrying out the sum on m, using the addition
theorem for spherical harmonics,

2l + 1
l

m=−l
Y
m∗
l
(Ω

)Y
m
l
(Ω) = P
l
(cos γ), (12.65)
where P
l
(cos γ) = P
0
l
(cos γ) is Legendre’s polynomial, and γ is the angle between
the directions represented by Ω and Ω

, or
cos γ = cos θ cos θ

+ sin θ sin θ

cos(φ −φ

). (12.66)
Then we obtain
G
k
(r, r

) =
2
a
3

nl
2l + 1

P
l
(cos γ)
1
j
2
l+1

ln
)
j
l

ln
r/a)j
l

ln
r

/a)
k
2
−(β
ln
/a)
2
. (12.67)
This leads us to the second method.
12.4.2 Discontinuity (Direct) Method
Let us adopt the angular dependence found above:
G
k
(r, r

) =

l=0
2l + 1

P
l
(cos γ)g
l
(r, r

), (12.68)
where we will call g
l
the reduced Green’s function. Because Y
m
l
is an eigenfunc-
tion of the angular part of the Laplacian operator,

2
Y
m
l
(Ω) = −
l(l + 1)
r
2
Y
m
l
(Ω), (12.69)
and the delta function can be written as
δ(r −r

) =
1
rr

δ(r −r

)δ(Ω −Ω

), (12.70)
we see that, because of the orthonormality of the spherical harmonics, Eq. (12.60),
the Green’s function equation (12.46) corresponds to the following equation
satisfied by the reduced Green’s function, the inhomogeneous “spherical Bessel
equation,”
_
d
2
dr
2
+
2
r
d
dr

l(l + 1)
r
2
+k
2
_
g
l
(r, r

) =
1
rr

δ(r −r

). (12.71)
We solve this equation directly. For (0 < r

< a)
0 ≤ r < r

: g
l
(r, r

) = a(r

)j
l
(kr), (12.72a)
r

< r ≤ a : g
l
(r, r

) = b(r

)j
l
(kr) +c(r

)n
l
(kr). (12.72b)
12.4. HELMHOLTZ EQUATIONINSIDE A SPHERE135 Version of November 23, 2010
Only j
l
appears in the first form because the solution must be finite at r = 0,
and the second solution to the spherical Bessel equation,
n
l
(x) =
_
π
2x
N
l+1/2
(x), (12.73)
where N
ν
is the Neumann function, is singular at x = 0. For example,
n
0
(x) = −
cos x
x
, (12.74)
and in general
n
l
(x) = −x
l
_

1
x
d
dx
_
l
cos x
x
. (12.75)
To determine the functions a, b, and c, we proceed as follows. The boundary
condition at r = a, g
l
(a, r

) = 0, implies
0 = b(r

)j
l
(ka) +c(r

)n
l
(ka), (12.76)
or
b(r

)
c(r

)
= −
n
l
(ka)
j
l
(ka)
. (12.77)
Thus we can write in the outer region,
a ≥ r > r

: g
l
(r, r

) = A(r

)[j
l
(kr)n
l
(ka) −n
l
(kr)j
l
(ka)]. (12.78)
The next condition we impose is that of the continuity of g
l
at r = r

:
a(r

)j
l
(kr

) = A(r

)[j
l
(kr

)n
l
(ka) −n
l
(kr

)j
l
(ka)]. (12.79)
On the other hand, the derivative of g
l
is discontinuous at r = r

, as we may
see by integrating Eq. (12.71) over a tiny interval around r = r

:
d
dr
g
l
(r, r

)
¸
¸
¸
¸
r=r


r=r

−ǫ
=
1
r
′2
, (12.80)
which implies
ka(r

)j

l
(kr

) −kA(r

)[j

l
(kr

)n
l
(ka) −n

l
(kr

)j
l
(ka)] = −
1
r
′2
. (12.81)
Now multiply Eq. (12.79) by kj

l
(kr

), and Eq. (12.81) by j
l
(kr

), and subtract:
j
l
(kr

)
r
′2
= −kA(r

)j
l
(ka)[j
l
(kr

)n

l
(kr

) −n
l
(kr

)j

l
(kr

)]. (12.82)
Now j
l
, n
l
are the independent solutions of the spherical Bessel equation
_
1
r
2
d
dr
_
r
2
d
dr
_

l(l + 1)
r
2
+k
2
_
u = 0, (12.83)
136 Version of November 23, 2010 CHAPTER 12. GREEN’S FUNCTIONS
the Wronskian of which,
∆(r) ≡ j
l
(kr)n

l
(kr) −n
l
(kr)j

l
(kr) (12.84)
has the form
∆(r) =
const.
r
2
, (12.85)
as we saw in Problem 4 of Assignment 8. We can determine the constant by
considering the asymptotic forms of j
l
, n
l
,
j
l
(kr) ∼
sin(kr −lπ/2)
kr
, kr ≫1, (12.86a)
n
l
(kr) ∼ −
cos(kr −lπ/2)
kr
, kr ≫1, (12.86b)
which imply
∆(r) =
1
k
2
r
2
[sin
2
(kr −lπ/2) + cos
2
(kr −lπ/2)]
=
1
(kr)
2
. (12.87)
Thus since the right-hand side of Eq. (12.82) is proportional to the Wronskian,
we find the function A:
A(r

) = −k
j
l
(kr

)
j
l
(ka)
, (12.88)
and then from Eq. (12.79) we find the function a:
a(r

) = −
k
j
l
(ka)
[j
l
(kr

)n
l
(ka) −n
l
(kr

)j
l
(ka)]. (12.89)
Hence the Green’s function is explicitly
r < r

: g
l
(r, r

) = −k
j
l
(kr)
j
l
(ka)
[j
l
(kr

)n
l
(ka) −n
l
(kr

)j
l
(ka)], (12.90a)
r > r

: g
l
(r, r

) = −k
j
l
(kr

)
j
l
(ka)
[j
l
(kr)n
l
(ka) −n
l
(kr)j
l
(ka)], (12.90b)
or
g
l
(r, r

) = −kj
l
(kr
<
)j
l
(kr
>
)
_
n
l
(ka)
j
l
(ka)

n
l
(kr
>
)
j
l
(kr
>
)
_
, (12.91)
where r
<
is the lesser of r, r

, and r
>
is the greater.
From this closed form we may extract the eigenvalues and eigenfunctions of
the spherical Bessel differential operator appearing in Eq. (12.83). The poles of
g
l
occur where j
l
(ka) has zeroes, all of which are real, at ka = β
ln
, the nth zero
of j
l
, or
k
2
=
_
β
ln
a
_
2
. (12.92)
12.5. HELMHOLTZ EQUATIONIN UNBOUNDEDSPACE137 Version of November 23, 2010
In the neighborhood of this zero,
j
l
(ka) = (ka −β
ln
)j

l

ln
). (12.93)
But at the zero the Wronskian is
1

ln
)
2
= −n
l

ln
)j

l

ln
). (12.94)
Now from the recursion relation
J

λ
(z) =
λ
z
J
λ
(z) −J
λ+1
(z), (12.95)
we see that the derivative of the spherical Bessel function (12.50) satisfies, at
the zero,
j

l

ln
) = −j
l+1

ln
). (12.96)
Thus the residue of the pole of g
l
at k = β
ln
/a is
1
a
2
β
ln
j
l

ln
r
<
/a)j
l

ln
r
>
/a)
j
2
l+1

ln
)
. (12.97)
Now j
l
is an even or odd function of z depending on whether n is even or odd.
So if β
ln
is a zero of j
l
, so is −β
ln
, and hence if we add the contributions of
these two poles, we get the corresponding contribution to g
l
:
g
l
(r, r

) ∼
1
a
2
β
ln
j
l

ln
r/a)j
l

ln
r

/a)
[j
l+1

ln
)]
2
_
1
k −β
ln
/a

1
k +β
ln
/a
_
. (12.98)
Summing up the contribution of all such pairs of poles, we obtain
g
l
(r, r

) =
2
a
3

n=1
j
l

ln
r/a)j
l

ln
r

/a)
[j
l+1

ln
)]
2
1
k
2
−(β
ln
/a)
2
, (12.99)
which is the eigenfunction expansion displayed in Eq. (12.67).
12.5 Helmholtz Equation in Unbounded Space
Again we are solving the equation
(∇
2
+k
2
)G
k
(r, r

) = δ(r −r

), (12.100)
but now in unbounded space. The solution to this equation is an outgoing
spherical wave:
G
k
(r, r

) = G
k
(r − r

) = −
1

e
ik|r−r

|
|r −r

|
. (12.101)
138 Version of November 23, 2010 CHAPTER 12. GREEN’S FUNCTIONS
This may be directly verified. Consider a small sphere S, of radius ǫ, centered
on r

:
_
S
(dr)(∇
2
+k
2
)G
k
(r −r

) ≈
_
S
(dρ)∇
2
ρ
_

1

e
ikρ
ρ
_
=
_
dΩρ
2
d

_

1

e
ikρ
ρ

¸
¸
¸
ρ=ǫ
→ 1, (12.102)
as ǫ → 0. Evidently, for r = r

, G
k
satisfies the Helmholtz equation, (∇
2
+
k
2
)G
k
= 0.
Alternatively, we may construct G
k
from the eigenfunction expansion (11.109),
G
k
(r −r

) =

n
ψ

n
(r


n
(r)
λ
n
−λ
(12.103)
where λ = −k
2
, λ
n
= −k
′2
, where the eigenfunctions are solutions of
(∇
2
+k
′2

k
′ (r) = 0, (12.104)
that is, they are plane waves,
ψ
k
′ (r) =
1
(2π)
3/2
e
ik

·r
, (12.105)
Here the (2π)
−3/2
factor is for normalization:
_
(dk

) ψ
k
′ (r)

ψ
k
′ (r

) = δ(r −r

), (12.106a)
_
(dr) ψ
k
′ (r)

ψ
k
(r) = δ(k −k

), (12.106b)
where we have noted that the spectrum of eigenvalues is continuous,

n

_
(dk). (12.107)
Thus the eigenfunction expansion for the Green’s function has the form
G
k
(r −r

) =
_
(dk

)
(2π)
3
e
−ik

·r

e
ik

·r
k
2
−k
′2
. (12.108)
Let us evaluate this integral in spherical coordinates, where we write
(dk

) = k
′2
dk





, µ

= cos θ

, (12.109)
where we have chosen the z axis to lie along the direction of r − r

. The
integration over the angles is easy:
G
k
(r −r

) =
1
(2π)
3
_

0
dk

k
′2
_

0


_
1
−1


e
ik

|r−r



k
2
−k
′2
=
1
(2π)
2
1
2
_

−∞
dk

k
′2
k
2
−k
′2
1
ik

ρ
_
e
ik

ρ
−e
−ik

ρ
_
, (12.110)
12.5. HELMHOLTZ EQUATIONIN UNBOUNDEDSPACE139 Version of November 23, 2010
-
§¤
¦¥
-
• •
−k
k

Figure 12.1: Contour in the k

plane used to evaluate the integral (12.110).
The integral is closed in the upper (lower) half-plane if the exponent is positive
(negative). The poles in the integrand are avoided by passing above the one on
the left, and below the one on the right.
defining ρ = |r − r

|, where we have replaced
_

0
by
1
2
_

−∞
because the inte-
grand is even in k
′2
. We evaluate this integral by contour methods. Because
now k can coincide with an eigenvalue k

, we must choose the contour appropri-
ately to define the Green’s function. Suppose we choose the contour as shown
in Fig. 12.1, passing below the pole at k and above the pole at −k. We close the
contour in the upper half plane for the e
ikρ
and in the lower half plane for the
e
−ikρ
term. Then by Jordan’s lemma, we immediately evaluate the integral:
G
k
(r −r

) =
1
(2π)
2
1
2
_

2πi
2k
k e
ikρ

+
2πi
−2k
k e
ikρ

_
= −
1

e
ikρ
ρ
, (12.111)
which coincides with Eq. (12.101). If a different contour defining the integral
had been chosen, we would have obtained a different Green’s function, not
one corresponding to outgoing spherical waves. Boundary conditions uniquely
determine the contour.
Note that
G
k
(r, r

) = G
k
(r

, r), (12.112)
even though G
k
is complex. The self-adjointness property (11.110) implied by
the eigenfunction expansion is only formal, and is spoiled by the contour choice.
140 Version of November 23, 2010 CHAPTER 12. GREEN’S FUNCTIONS
12.6 Green’s Function for the Scalar Wave Equa-
tion
The inhomogeneous scalar wave equation,
_

2

1
c
2

2
∂t
2
_
ψ(r, t) = ρ(r, t), (12.113)
requires boundary and initial conditions. The boundary conditions may be
Dirichlet, Neumann, or mixed. The initial conditions are Cauchy (see Sec. 12.2).
Thus, we might specify at an initial time t = t
0
both ψ(r, t
0
) and

∂t
ψ(r, t
0
) at
every point r in the region being considered.
The corresponding Green’s function G(r, t; r

, t

) satisfies
_

2

1
c
2

2
∂t
2
_
G(r, t; r

, t

) = δ(r −r

)δ(t −t

). (12.114)
It must satisfy the homogeneous form of the boundary conditions satisfied by
ψ. Thus, if ψ has a specified value everywhere on the bounding surface, the
corresponding Green’s function must vanish on the surface. In classical physics
it is customary to adopt as initial conditions
G(r, t; r

, t

)
∂G
∂t
(r, t; r

, t

)
_
= 0 if t < t

. (12.115)
These then define the so-called retarded Green’s functions. They ensure that
an effect occurs after its cause. (In fact, however, this time asymmetry of the
Green’s function, which is not present in the wave equation, is not necessary;
and in fact it is impossible to maintain in relativistic quantum mechanics.)
With such a Green’s function, what takes the place of the self-adjointness
property given in Sec. 11.8? Since the second time derivative is invariant under
t →−t, we have in addition to the inhomogeneous equation (12.114)
_

2

1
c
2

2
∂t
2
_
G(r, −t; r
′′
, −t
′′
) = δ(r −r
′′
)δ(t −t
′′
). (12.116)
Multiply Eq. (12.116) by G(r, t; r

, t), Eq. (12.114) by G(r, −t; r
′′
, −t
′′
), subtract,
and integrate over the volume being considered, and over t from−∞to T, where
T > t

, t
′′
:
_
T
−∞
dt
_
V
(dr)
_
G(r, t; r

, t

)∇
2
G(r, −t; r
′′
, −t
′′
)
−G(r, −t; r
′′
, −t
′′
)∇
2
G(r, t; r

, t

)
−G(r, t; r

, t

)
1
c
2

2
∂t
2
G(r, −t; r
′′
, −t
′′
)
+G(r, −t; r
′′
, −t
′′
)
1
c
2

2
∂t
2
G(r, t; r

, t

)
_
= −G(r

, −t

; r
′′
, −t
′′
) +G(r
′′
, t
′′
; r

, t

). (12.117)
12.6. GREEN’S FUNCTION FORTHE SCALAR WAVE EQUATION141 Version of November 23, 2010
Now use Green’s theorem, together with the corresponding identity,

∂t
_
A

∂t
B −B

∂t
A
_
= A

2
∂t
2
B −B

2
∂t
2
A, (12.118)
to conclude that
G(r
′′
, t
′′
; r

, t

) −G(r

, −t

; r
′′
, −t
′′
)
=
_
T
−∞
dt
_
Σ
dσ ·
_
G(r, t; r

, t

)∇G(r, −t; r
′′
, −t
′′
)
−G(r, −t; r
′′
, −t
′′
)∇G(r, t; r

, t

)
_

_
V
(dr)
1
c
2
_
G(r, t; r

, t

)

∂t
G(r, −t; r
′′
, −t
′′
)
−G(r, −t; r
′′
, −t
′′
)

∂t
G(r, t; r

, t

)

¸
¸
¸
t=T
t=−∞
. (12.119)
The surface integral vanishes, since both Green’s functions satisfy the same
homogeneous boundary conditions on Σ. (The boundary conditions are time
independent.) The second integral is also zero because from Eq. (12.115)
G(r, −∞; r

, t

)
∂G
∂t
(r, −∞; r

, t

)
_
= 0, (12.120a)
since −∞< t

, and
G(r, −T; r
′′
, −t
′′
)
∂G
∂t
(r, −T; r
′′
, −t
′′
)
_
= 0, (12.120b)
since −T < −t
′′
. Thus the reciprocity relation here is
G(r, t; r

, t

) = G(r

, −t

; r, −t) (12.121)
How do we express a solution to the wave equation (12.113) in terms of the
Green’s function? The procedure is the same as that given earlier. The field,
and the Green’s function, satisfy

′2
ψ(r

, t) −
1
c
2

2
∂t
′2
ψ(r

, t

) = ρ(r

, t

), (12.122a)

′2
G(r, t; r

, t

) −
1
c
2

2
∂t
′2
G(r, t; r

, t

) = δ(r −r

)δ(t −t

). (12.122b)
Note that the differentiations on G are with respect to the second set of argu-
ments (this equation follows from the reciprocity relation). Again multiply the
first equation by G(r, t; r

, t

), the second by ψ(r

, t

), subtract, integrate over
the volume, and over t

from t
0
< t to t
+
, where t
+
means t +ǫ, ǫ →0 through
142 Version of November 23, 2010 CHAPTER 12. GREEN’S FUNCTIONS
positive values. Then for r ∈ V ,
_
t
+
t0
dt

_
V
(dr

)
_
G(r, t; r

, t

)∇
′2
ψ(r

, t

) −ψ(r

, t

)∇
′2
G(r, t; r

, t

)

1
c
2
_
G(r, t; r

, t

)

2
∂t
′2
ψ(r

, t

) −ψ(r

, t

)

2
∂t
′2
G(r, t; r

, t

)
_ _
= −ψ(r, t) +
_
t
+
t0
dt

_
V
(dr

) G(r, t; r

, t

)ρ(r

, t

). (12.123)
Now we again use Green’s theorem and the identity (12.118) to conclude
ψ(r, t) =
_
t
+
t0
dt

_
V
(dr

) G(r, t; r

, t

)ρ(r

, t

)

_
t
+
t0
dt

_
Σ
dσ ·
_
G(r, t; r

, t

)∇

ψ(r

, t

) −ψ(r

, t

)∇

G(r, t; r

, t

)
¸

1
c
2
_
V
(dr

)
_
G(r, t; r

, t
0
)

∂t
0
ψ(r

, t
0
) −ψ(r

, t
0
)

∂t
0
G(r, t; r

, t
0
)
_
.
(12.124)
This is our result. The interpretation is as follows:
1. The first integral represents the effect of the sources ρ distributed through-
out the volume V .
2. The second integral represents the boundary conditions. If, for example,
ψ satisfies inhomogeneous Neumann boundary conditions on Σ,
ˆ n · ∇ψ
¸
¸
¸
¸
Σ
= f(r

) (12.125)
is specified, then we use homogeneous Neumann boundary conditions for
G,
ˆ n · ∇G(r, t; r

, t

)
¸
¸
¸
¸
Σ
= 0. (12.126)
Then the second integral reads

_
t
+
t0
dt

_
Σ
dσ · G(r, t; r

, t)∇

ψ(r

, t

). (12.127)
That is, −ˆ n · ∇

ψ(r

, t

) represents a surface source distribution. Other
types of boundary conditions are as discussed earlier.
3. The third integral represents the effect of the initial conditions, where
ψ(r

, t
0
),

∂t
0
ψ(r

, t
0
) (12.128)
12.7. WAVE EQUATIONINUNBOUNDED SPACE143 Version of November 23, 2010
are specified. They correspond to impulsive sources at t = t
0
:
ρ
init
(r

, t

) = −
1
c
2
_

∂t
0
ψ(r

, t
0
)δ(t

−t
0
) +ψ(r

, t
0


(t

−t
0
)
_
. (12.129)
We verify this statement by integrating by parts, and letting the lower
limit of the t

integration be t
0
−ǫ.
12.7 Wave Equation in Unbounded Space
We now wish to solve Eq. (12.114)
_

2

1
c
2

2
∂t
2
_
G(r, t; r

, t

) = δ(r −r

)δ(t −t

), (12.130)
in unbounded space by noting that then G is a function of R = r −r

and
T = t −t

only,
G(r, t; r

, t

) = G(r −r

, t −t

) = G(R, T). (12.131)
Then we can introduce a Fourier transform in space and time,
g(k, ω) =
_
(dR) dTe
ik·R
e
−iωT
G(R, T). (12.132)
The Fourier transform of the Green’s function equation is (we have set c = 1
temporarily for convenience),
(−k
2

2
)g(k, ω) = 1, (12.133)
where we write k
2
= k · k, which has the immediate solution
g(k, ω) =
1
ω
2
−k
2
. (12.134)
Thus the Green’s function has the formal representation
G(R, T) =
_
(dk)
(2π)
3


e
−ik·R
e
iωT
1
ω
2
−k
2
. (12.135)
The ω integral here is not well defined until we impose the boundary condition
(12.115)
G(R, T) = 0 if T < 0. (12.136)
This will be true if the poles are located above the real axis, as shown in Fig. 12.2.
Here the contour is closed in the upper half plane if T > 0, and in the lower half
plane if T < 0. In both cases, by Jordan’s lemma, the infinite semicircle gives
no contribution. We have
_

−∞


e
iωT
1
(ω −k)(ω +k)
=
_
i
_
e
ikT
2k

e
−ikT
2k
_
, T > 0,
0 T < 0.
(12.137)
144 Version of November 23, 2010 CHAPTER 12. GREEN’S FUNCTIONS
- -
• •
−k +iǫ k +iǫ

Figure 12.2: Contour in the ω plane used to evaluate the integral (12.135).
Thus, if T > 0,
G(R, T) =
1
(2π)
3
_

0
k
2
dk 2π
_
1
−1
dµe
−ikRµ
i
2k
_
e
ikT
−e
−ikT
_
=
i
(2π)
2
_

0
k dk
2ikR
_
e
ikR
−e
−ikR
_ _
e
ikT
−e
−ikT
_
=
1
(2π)
2
1
2R
1
2
_

−∞
dk
_
e
ik(R+T)
+e
−ik(R+T)
−e
ik(R−T)
−e
ik(T−R)
_
=
1

1
2R
[δ(R +T) −δ(R −T)] . (12.138)
But R and T are both positive, so R + T can never vanish. Thus we are left
with
G(R, T) = −
1

1
R
δ(R −T), (12.139)
or restoring c,
G(r − r

, t −t

) = −
1

1
|r −r

|
δ
_
|r −r

|
c
−(t −t

)
_
. (12.140)
The effect at the observation point r at time t is due to the action at the source
point r

at time
t

= t −
|r −r

|
c
. (12.141)
Physically, this means that the “signal” propagates with speed c.
12.7. WAVE EQUATIONINUNBOUNDED SPACE145 Version of November 23, 2010
Let us make this more concrete by considering a simple example, a point
“charge” moving with velocity v(t) =
d
dt
r(t),
ρ(r, t) = qδ(r −r(t)). (12.142)
There are no effects from the infinite surface, nor from the infinite past, so we
have from Eq. (12.124)
ψ(r, t) =
_
t
+
−∞
dt

_
V
(dr

) G(r −r

, t −t

)ρ(r

, t

)
= −
q

_
t
+
−∞
dt

1
|r −r(t

)|
δ
_
|r −r(t

)|
c
−(t −t

)
_
. (12.143)
If we let R(t

) = r −r(t

), the distance from the source to the observation point
at time t

= t −
R(t

)
c
, we write this as
ψ(r, t) = −
q

_
t
+
−∞
dt

1
R(t

)
δ
_
R(t

)
c
−(t −t

)
_
. (12.144)
Let τ = R(t

)/c +t

, where τ = t determines the “retarded time” t

so
dτ = dt

_
1 +
1
c
dR
dt

_
, (12.145)
where
dR
dt

=
1
2R
d
dt

R· R = −
R· v
R
, (12.146)
that is
dτ = dt

_
1 −
R· v
Rc
_
. (12.147)
Thus the field is evaluated as
ψ(r, t) = −
q

_
t+R(t)/c
−∞

R(τ)
1
_
1 −
R·v
Rc
_
(τ)
δ(τ −t)
= −
q

1
R(t) −R(t) · v(t)/c
. (12.148)